Cheaters Dilemma: Iraq, WMD and the path to the 2003 war

Why did the Iraqi regime fail to demonstrate it no longer had WMD prior to the 2003 invasion? For the past twenty years, there has been surprisingly little debate about this key question. In this seminar I draw on primary sources that I have collected from Iraqi sources and the United Nations inspectors investigating Iraqi WMD disarmament between the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Drawing on this new evidence, I argue that two factors were vital in shaping Iraqi WMD disclosures during the 2002-2003 period. First, a crucial strategic dilemma was that new admissions of past deception would bolster the case for war. Second, the Iraqi regime faced far greater difficulties in ensuring that its subordinates cooperated with the United Nations inspectors, despite the growing threat of war, than was recognized at the time. Drawing on these rich new primary sources, I highlight the debates and disagreements about what to disclose and to deny that unfolded inside the Iraqi state apparatus during these fateful months. 


Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo, and heads the Oslo Nuclear Project. She has previously been a Junior Faculty Fellow at CISAC, Stanford University (2012-13), and a pre- and post-doctoral fellow at the Belfer Center, Harvard University (2008-10). She received her doctoral degree from London School of Economics in 2010, which received the Michael Nicholson Thesis Prize from BISA the following year. She published Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons (Cornell University Press, 2016) based on her dissertation research. Her work has been published in numerous outlets including International Security, The Middle East Journal, the New York Times (online), International Herald Tribune, Monkey Cage and War on the Rocks.